The first 160 people have relocated to a facility hosted and paid for by the billionaire Canadian film producer Frank Giustra, founder of Lionsgate Films.
The facility in Thessaloniki will eventually house 800 people— primarily families with small children. The work is being carried out via Giustra’s charitable foundation, Radcliffe Foundation.
There are an estimated 50,000 refugees from various nations that are effectively stuck in Greece, not able to move north since many Balkan nations have closed borders.
Many are awaiting asylum paperwork to be filed in Greece, while others could be deported back to Turkey following the deal struck between the European Union and Turkey.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Giustra took jabs at the rhetoric coming from U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump, specifically towards the refugee situation in Europe.
“There’s really no excuse for that rhetoric and behavior. It’s politics and politics has become very ugly,” Giustra told The Hollywood Reporter after Trump called for Syrian refugees to be denied entry into the U.S. and a wall to be built along the southern U.S. border to prevent Mexicans from entering the country illegally.
“It’s sad that intelligent people who should know better are taking this approach.”
Giustra’s continued his criticism of the refugee conversation in the United States, citing examples in his native Canada.
“What we as Canadians see south of the border is very sad and very discouraging. These people promoting these ideas know better, they know what the facts are, but they are playing on the ignorance and fear of people for self-gain,” Giustra said in the Hollywood Reporter interview.
In addition to the housing facility, Giustra is also offering a $20,000 cash prize to the winner of a “Call to Action” short film contest at the upcoming Vancouver Film Festival that he hopes will inspire people to act.
Organizers say it will go to a “call-to-action” film “that inspires, engages and empowers Canadians to take action on the global refugee crisis.”
Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, Sarah McLachlan and Atom Egoyan are among the jury members of the film prize concerning the global refugee crisis.
“The refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our generation,” Giustra said in a news release. “I believe that through education and communication, we, as Canadians can bring together global citizens and humanitarian leaders to make a difference.”
Filmmakers can submit films through a website via private YouTube or Vimeo links. Submissions will be shortlisted by VIFF programmers. A selection of up to 10 films will be sent to the jury which will select three finalists whose work will be put to an online vote. The video with the most votes will win the $20,000 prize and a screening during VIFF, which runs Sept. 29-Oct. 14.
“We stepped in to get something done and to show people it can be done. There are solutions. It lies in a private-public partnership. It’s the future of a lot of humanitarian work,” he explained.
And the short film competition, to be ultimately judged by the public via social media, also aims to change hearts and minds about the world’s refugee crisis.
“We know how powerful a medium film can be for education and inspiration, and we want to use that ability of filmmakers to create this means of creating awareness, and educating people with a call to action,” he said.
On November 17, 2015, Frank Giustra visited the Greek island of Lesvos to see the refugee crisis for himself. His visit to Greece inspired further action.